Dave’s blog: That’s why you’re called Mad Camera

For any photographer or videographer, the anticipation of a new camera is like thinking about presents under the tree.

The new tech’s going to be amazing. It will solve all the problems you have and open up a whole new world of creative possibilities. The camera will perform flawlessly, responding to your every whim, and people will finally see the work you are capable of.

You don’t think about shortcomings, learning curves or the sinking feeling of trying to use technology you haven’t figured out. No tool is perfect, but this one somehow will be. You especially don’t think about the camera arriving without a critical accessory and sitting in a box, unused, for a few days before you have to repackage it and send it back to the dealer.

You guessed it.

I was overcome with guilt when I ordered the equipment. My plan had been to wait until my new business income was a bit more reliable. Yet, I looked around at what the competition was putting out and found my own cameras lacking. I was increasingly drawn to YouTube and B&H, poring over reviews and sample footage videos, looking for the perfect solution.

After a ton of research, it seemed like what I was looking for simply did not exist. I wanted a cam that captured the richness of good DSLR footage, with the functionality and simplicity of a camcorder, and there wasn’t much out there without paying a ton of money for a digital cinema camera.

I had just about concluded that the Sony FS5 was the best (if expensive) choice, at about $4,700 without lenses, and was starting to surmise it was simply out of range right now, when I stumbled upon the Panasonic AG DVX200 way down in the camera queue. It appeared to be a well-thought-out, fixed lens camcorder with everything I wanted, including a huge sensor designed to do the work of the DSLRs. Reviews were solid, and there weren’t really any other video cameras that compared. At about $3,500, I was in love and pulling out my credit card.

Not so fast. I checked Amazon for deals and found a damn fine one. It was a few hundred less than my usual source, and included a bag, filter kit, data card and a bunch of other goodies. It was on Amazon, but the actual seller was called Mad Camera.

I know what you’re thinking. Third party seller — bad idea.

Really, I did my research. People gave them good reviews. I found no news stories about scams or ripoffs. I bit my lip and punched “Complete this order.”

The knock from UPS came three days earlier than expected. I tore open the package, sifted through the booty, propped my new friend on the box, and…

No battery pack.

Shouldn’t be such a big deal. They should just FedEx me one. But it was, and they didn’t. Four days later, I boxed up the whole menagerie and mailed it back. I feel about six degrees separated from the seller, and don’t yet know if they intend a refund or if they’re going replace it. Amazon says they have two days to tell me.

I’m a little calmer now. I’ve held the camera in my hand, and even was able to look through the viewfinder and fiddle with it a bit when it was plugged in. It’s nice. The build quality is lower than my Sony and a modest disappointment. There was a slight rattle when I tilted the camera body up. I wasn’t able to shoot or view footage to see if this is really the camera I’ve been dreaming about.

Still, my research tells me this is my best bet, so one way or another I’ll get my hands on one in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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